- Everyone knows the Yellow Jackets like to run the football, but Minnesota has a freshman running back that can do plenty of damage himself.
Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (-3.5)
Wed., December 26, 5:15 p.m. ET
Four things to know before betting on Minnesota-Georgia Tech:
1. Georgia Tech enters bowl season with a 7-5 record, but that record is flipped to 5-7 against the spread. The Yellow Jackets looked particularly vulnerable down the stretch. Georgia Tech can hardly be blamed for losing its regular season finale to Georgia, but the 45-21 loss as 17-point underdogs was more of a blowout than expected. One week prior, Tech escaped with a 30-27 win over Virginia as a six-point favorite and was outgained in yards per play by a margin of 6.61 to 5.08. Those issues could be exacerbated In the Quick Lane Bowl, where the Yellow Jackets will be playing with a lame-duck coach, as Paul Johnson was fired at the end of the regular season.
2. Minnesota's 6-6 straight-up record improves to 7-5 against the spread, and the Gophers racked up some impressive wins in a Big Ten conference that was more competitive than Georgia Tech's ACC this season. Two of the Gophers' biggest wins came in the past three games. Minnesota beat Purdue and Wisconsin by a combined 53 points despite being 11-point underdogs in each game. The Gophers also beat eventual Mountain West champ Fresno State in September as one-point underdogs and seem to be hitting their stride under second-year head coach P.J. Fleck.
3. Georgia Tech likes to run the ball and has been effective doing so. But while Minnesota's run defense has unimpressive overall numbers, thanks in large part to surrendering too many big plays, the Gophers are solid in areas that could cause the Yellow Jackets' option offense to stumble. Minnesota is 39th in the country in defensive rushing opportunity rate, allowing rushes of five yards or more on only 44.6% of carries. And the Gophers are ranked ninth in the country in stuff rate, stopping opposing rushers at or behind the line of scrimmage on 25.3% of carries. Minnesota held a strong Wisconsin ground attack to just 170 rushing yards, its second-lowest total on the season, which helped the Gophers limit the Badgers to just 15 points. The only teams that held Wisconsin to fewer points all season were Michigan (13) and Penn State (10).
4. The Gophers have a gem of a running back in freshman Mohamed Ibrahim, who could surpass 1,000 rushing yards despite missing three games this year. Ibrahim has been on the field in each of Minnesota's last four games, and he has thrived. He ran for at least 98 yards in each contest and scored a combined four touchdowns. Ibrahim will face a Yellow Jackets' D that allows 4.51 yards per carry (82nd in FBS). With Minnesota having an edge running the ball, it looks like a great value at +3.5.
Pick: Minnesota +3.5
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)